My first full marathon. All 26.2 miles of it.
When I made the tearful decision to withdraw from Ironman Chattanooga I knew I needed something else to throw at myself in it’s place. Nothing will ever change how I feel about my Ironman dream, but a full marathon somehow sounded like an appropriate consolation race.
Life has been difficult, turned upside and sideways this year for us. It’s been a whole lot of a hot mess. Had a baby, two new jobs, sell our house, move, live with my parents while building a new house. And my new job is basically sucking the life force (and remaining baby weight, no complaints there) right out of me.
I would have chronicled my training here too, but time has been escaping me and blogging has become a bottom of the to-do list item. That and, ya know, I should have trained more.
Oh, what’s that? I went into this race under trained? Shocker. [Insert eye roll here]
Despite my mediocre training, I showed up on race day with a very what will be will be attitude. Rob and Ellie dropped me off at the start, kissed me good luck, and watched the start of the race.
I had a few goals for this race going in. My unrealistic yet not totally impossible goal was the average 12 minutes per mile overall. Had I trained properly, given my actual finish pace, this would have been much more realistic. My secondary goal, and much more likely goal, was an average overall pace of 13 minutes per mile. And my don’t die just finish goal was 14 minutes per mile average.
My plan going in was build as much of a time buffer as I could for as long as I could. I also intended to run strong until at least the half way point. Both of these parts of my plan ended up very doable, thankfully.
My first couple of miles I felt really good. I was cruising right along and happy as could be. My most fabulous race buddy Lindsay was out on the course as a bike support and she found me in the park and paced me for a few miles while we chit chatted. It was super nice. What a lovely way to start a grueling race.
Miles 1-5; 11:30, 11:45, 11:24, 11:25, 11:28
At this point I was in the zone. Totally just cruising. I felt amazing and was clocking some decent mile times. I finally wound my way around to the dog park at the end of this side of the lake. I hadn’t bothered to look at the course map ahead of time, though I know the marathon course had been changed since they added more trails around the lake. So I as a bit surprised when full marathon runners were directed out of the park instead of turning around at the dog park.
We ran out onto 370 and over the bridge over the river before hanging a left by the Elk’s Lodge. Despite my many years of living in this area I had never been down this road before. It ran along side the river and with the fall foliage it was a really nice stretch. The road was heavily treed and that may or may not have been the reason why, but unbeknownst to me, my watch began malfunctioning.
Miles 6-10; 10:48, 10:56, 11:12, 11:36, 13:52 (wrong)
No. Nope. I was still cruising at the same pace I had been carrying when miles 9 and 10 buzzed at me. Mile 9 I didn’t think much of, but when I saw my time for mile 10 I realized something was wrong with my GPS. Looking back at my data I can see it cut out about 2/3 of the way through mile 9, meaning both those miles were probably closer to an 11/mile pace. So frustrating. At that point my pace and distance were completely off. My watch had been pretty on par with the mileage signs, but now it was coming up about four tenths of a mile short. I was really fuming over it, but there was nothing I could do but to keep running. And I did. Until about the half way point.
I was still carrying a similar pace despite what my watch had to say about things. And thankfully I saw my husband, mother in law, and daughter again just before the single lane bridge to that crosses over to the other side of the lake.
Miles 11-13; 13:06 (also wrong), 12:45 (still wrong), 11:25
The more I continued running at a consistent pace the more my watch began to correct itself, thankfully. Data junkie, party of me.
I made it the half marathon mark still chugging along and walked through an aid station around mile 13.5 to grab some water and gatorade endurance. As I walked for a minute swigging down my cups the inside of both my thighs began to seize up. I started running anyways despite my muscles cramping painfully. I got to the 14 miles marker and slowed to a walk. I did some walking lunges and just dragged myself slowly along the lake trail.
At mile 15 there were portapotties so I stopped to go mostly for a chance to sit for a moment. Sitting did me no good. My thigh muscles were still seizing and cramping. Thoughts of doubt began creeping in. Why didn’t I train more? Why did I, someone who is not built to be an endurance athlete, choose to attempt this? Thoughts of taking a DNF began to cloud my judgement as the pain radiated up the inside of both of my thighs. I sat for a few minutes on a bench and rubbed the inside of my thighs hoping to work out the cramping. No dice.
No sense in just sitting around. I was on the far side of the lake and the amount of runners was sparse. All I could do was keep moving, so I got back up and kept walking.
The my knight in Moxi blue spandex appeared at the mile 16 turn around for the west lake trail. Lindsay was there and happy to give me a hug and pep talk. I had been drinking Skratch and eating shot blocks, my typical endurance race fueling technique, but it wasn’t working for me today. Then Lindsay pulled out the magic elixir; a clementine and a half eaten tube of base salts.
I shoved the clementine down, took two licks of salts then Lindsay road along side me while I walked for another mile. By mile 16.5 I felt like a completely new person.
Lindsay continued to ride along side me while I walked until we reached the mil marker for mile 17, then we parted ways and I picked up running again. I did stop for a minute or so during mile 17 to give the base salts to another runner who was being helped by the Moxie’s, which cost me a smidge of time. Then I walked an aid station for some water and gatorade, so even though I was feeling good and running again, I had a slower mile 17.
Miles 14-17; 17:09, 17:50, 18:19, and 17:13
At this point I was feeling great and had my cruising legs back under me. I was able to clip along running and got back over the one lane bridge and back to the east shore trail of the lake.
Despite feeling good and making forward progress, the running field had thinned almost completely. The half marathon was done and over, and the amount of people running the full marathon was a really small percentage of the runners. And since this is a fast and flat BQ race most people do this marathon to shoot for a PR. That meant the lake park was full of regular patrons and I saw very few people with race bibs. There were no more spectators and the only cheers were from a park goer here and there and saw my bib and realized I was still working my way through the race. The lack of a race atmosphere at this point took some of the fun out of it, but I was still happy to charging along and feeling seriously decent.
In fact, Lindsay found me again during mile 22 and she couldn’t believe I was somehow still smiling and happy. She offered me two more clementines, one of which I ate right away and one I stuffed down my sports bra for later, because I’m such a lady.
Miles 18-22; 11:18, 11:45, 11:58, 11:44, and 13:17
I managed to get one more strong mile out of myself as I neared the tail end of the park. I was finally starting to feel tired and opted to switch to run/walk intervals once I hit the parkway. I also finally found some other marathoners on the parkway. There was about half a dozen or so of us all sort of playing and slow game of leap frog with each other.
As I crossed under the rail bridge and walked the last aid station for some water, I started to get excited. I could see the end of the parkway which meant the baseball stadium, the finish line, was the next stretch. I was in the home stretch. Only a couple of hours prior I had sat down on a bench overlooking Onondaga Lake trying to decide if I was willing to DNF. But I muscled through, had a great second wind, and now my finish line was in sight.
Miles 23-25; 11:48, 12:09, and 13:25
I came off the parkway and rounded the corner into the parking lot. I made my way past the train station and was able to see the arch at the stadium ahead of me. I started to pick up my pace again as I turned into the parking lot and had a straight runway into the finish chute. I stopped quickly along the chute to kiss my husband and daughter who were waiting there for me and then I did it.
I became a marathoner.
Miles 26.2; 12:42
Official Finish- 5:35:18
Average Pace- 12:48
I enjoyed racing Empire State Marathon. I’ve done the half a couple of times in the past and had a great time transitioning to the full. Despite being under trained too I still feel like I had a good race, even with my few miles of suffering in the middle. And all things considering with everything we had going on thie year, with only being a bit past 10.5 months post partum, I think I did pretty darn awesome.
I told Rob when we were driving home afterwards that I wasn’t going to do another one of those any time soon. But within days I started feeling the itch to run another full marathon. And while I won’t be doing one this year coming up, I absolutely will do another one and I will train harder and finish stronger.